Plastic fidget toys resembling colorful pocket knives are a hit among Korean kids, but parents have expressed concern that they could encourage children to play with actual knives -- or worse.
On Monday, the South Chungcheong Province’s Office of Education became the latest authority to prohibit the possession of the toy, locally known as a "carrot knife," on school premises. They stated, "Carrot knives are not toys; they are deemed dangerous items that could provoke violent thoughts."
This follows a similar ban by the Daegu Metropolitan Office of Education at elementary and middle schools. Via an official statement issued on Oct. 30, it called for parental assistance in preventing students from purchasing and possessing carrot knives.
Carrot knives are a fidget tool popular among young teens, not just in Korea but also in some other countries. Like other fidget tools, such as spinners, they are designed to alleviate stress through simple, repetitive actions like tossing, twirling and spinning.
Available in various color schemes and made from fluorescent materials, these plastic knives, which to the eyes of some more resemble carrots, their prices range from 1,000 won to 2,000 won ($0.75-$1.50).
By law you must be 14 before you can buy a carrot knife, but online stores and stationery shops in school areas often sell them to younger children.
Carrot knife-related content has gained popularity on YouTube and TikTok, where videos show children spinning and flipping the knife in different ways.
“Half of my classmates have carrot knives,” an elementary school student surnamed Kim in sixth grade told The Herald Business. “I also received it from my friend as a birthday present. Since it’s a fake knife, I think it’s harmless.”
Eleven-year-old Chae Yeon-suh echoed the view. “It doesn’t look like a knife at all to me. It’s not sharp or anything.”
It is also common for elementary school children to carry box-cutter knives in their pencil cases for sharpening pencils.
However, parents are unnerved by the carrot knife trend, particularly in a country that has experienced a series of mass stabbings.
In an online community for mothers of young children, an anonymous poster shared her daughter's persistent request for a carrot knife. Her daughter argued that playing with the toy knife helps relieve stress.
Many comments expressed concerns that the toy could familiarize children with the most commonly used weapon in crimes here, given the strict control on guns.
One comment reads, “I was shocked to discover that the toy closely resembled a box cutter. I wanted to take it away from my son upon learning that some upper elementary students mimicked stabbing at each other for fun.”